From Publishers Weekly
University of Houston music professor Pollack (Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man
) offers a look at Gershwin so exhaustive and comprehensive that it stands as a definitive statement. Bibliographic notes filling 100 pages indicate the extent of this in-depth re-examination. Scholarly yet entertaining, Pollack's survey is not chronological; it's divided into two book-length sections. In part one, a study of popular music trends serves as an overture to Gershwin's musical influences, his childhood and Tin Pan Alley years, followed by a look at Gershwin as a pianist and conductor through his death from a brain tumor at the age of 38. The book's second half, titled "Work,'' is an ambitious attempt to document Gershwin's entire output, from orchestral works to theater, radio and films, including the role of lyricist Ira Gershwin in reworking his brother's tunes, as he did for Billy Wilder's 1964 film Kiss Me, Stupid
. The creation of Porgy and Bess
and subsequent revivals, films, concerts, recordings and jazz interpretations (notably by Miles Davis) fill several chapters with fascinating details. Gershwin's innovative synthesis of classical, blues and jazz into a "glorious body of work" is illuminated by Pollack's insightful analysis. 51 b&w photos. (Dec.)
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*Starred Review* Pollack's preface indicates his book builds on the work of many chroniclers of composer George Gershwin's life and work, and he names 10 of them. However, their books largely predated not only the appearance of a number of important publications, dissertations, recordings, and performances but also the availability of a variety of archival materials, including a large cache of Gershwin manuscripts discovered in 1982 in a Warner Brothers warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey. This biography is organized along partly thematic, partly chronological lines. Part 1, "Life," contains chapters depicting Gershwin's childhood and family and his musical education, early relation to popular music, achievement as a pianist, youthful activities on Broadway, friendships and love affairs, involvement with serious music, and lifestyle and character. Part 2, "Work," surveys Gershwin's output from his earliest compositions to those pieces that his brother, Ira, lyricized after Gershwin's death, in 1937. Pollack examines many of the composer's films, recordings, and critical writings; he provides, for each of Gershwin's shows, a synopsis of the story, details about the cast, and other aspects of its first production. With 51 black-and-white photographs, this engaging biography is also a tour de force of scholarship. George CohenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved